John Corbett

We returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, March 26 for Legislative Day 36 and the 11th week of session. With Legislative Day 40 just days away, the House worked diligently to pass several key bills before the 2019 legislative session comes to an end.

The House began our busy week by approving two measures that would improve educational opportunities for children with dyslexia in Georgia’s public schools.

Senate Bill 158 would strengthen Georgia’s current anti-human trafficking laws and provide greater resources and care for victims of human trafficking. SB 158, or the “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act,” would authorize the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to provide emergency care and supervision for a child victim of human trafficking without a court order or the consent of a parent or legal guardian. This bill would also direct DFCS and law enforcement to immediately take the child to an available victim services organization, which is certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, to provide comprehensive trauma-informed services, and this bill would protect these victims from being prosecuted for prostitution if they are under 18 years old.

Senate Bill 66, or the “Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act,” would help streamline the deployment of small cells, or small wireless facilities, in public rights-of-way by placing limits on fees that providers could pay and by implementing deadlines for local governments to follow during the permit application process. SB 66 would simplify and expedite new broadband installation by creating a standardized process. 

Senate Bill 118 would require that insurance companies would be required to provide coverage to patients and health care professionals for telehealth and telemedicine services. It would require that insurers reimburse health care providers for services provided through telemedicine at the same rate that the insurer would usually cover if the service was offered in-person, but SB 118 would prohibit insurers from requiring the use of telemedicine in lieu of in-person or contact services.

The House adopted HR 585 to create the House Study Committee on Gang and Youth Violence Prevention to analyze the best course of action to prevent gang and youth violence and determine legislative recommendations to combat this serious issue.

House Resolution 589 would create the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality to help institute systemic changes to decrease and prevent maternal deaths in our state. Georgia is among the top ten states with the highest maternal mortality rate, with 60 percent of these maternal deaths being preventable.

We gave final passage to the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020) budget, or House Bill 31. We completed our legislative responsibility with the adoption of a conference committee report, which set the final FY 2020 budget at an estimated $27.5 billion. 

• More than 50 percent of the FY 2020 funds are allocated for education 

• 22 percent for health and human services 

• Eight percent for transportation and economic development 

• Funding for the largest salary increase in our state’s history for teachers and certified personnel, which raises their base pay by $3,000.00 starting in July of this year.

Other highlights place an emphasis on women and children’s issues, such as program funding to address the high percentage of maternal mortality and additional funding for our most vulnerable Georgians, including the elderly and foster children.

Last week marks the final week of the 2019 legislative session, and the Georgia General Assembly will adjourn Sine Die on Tuesday, April 2.